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Peacock in a timeslot tizzy

NBC shuffles 'Contender' to Sunday nights

NBC has once again changed its mind about a timeslot for costly reality skein “The Contender,” deciding to air the Mark Burnett/Jeffrey Katzenberg skein on Sunday nights.

Shift to 8 p.m. Sundays — part of what the Peacock called a spring schedule “tweak” — reps the fifth time “Contender” has moved slots or premiere dates since NBC first scheduled it last May. Peacock gave no explanation for its move, but net execs have made it clear in the past that they’re willing to shake up the sked at a moment’s notice if they think it will serve the net’s needs.

In the case of “Contender,” the move means the show will square off against two big hits: ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and CBS’ “Cold Case.”

“Contender” will still premiere Monday, March 7, at 9:30 p.m., as announced last month. It will then pick up an extra airing March 10 in the “ER” timeslot before settling into its regular timeslot, 8 p.m. Sunday, on March 13.

Most recently, NBC had said it would air “Contender” Wednesdays at 8 p.m., opposite ABC’s “Lost” and Fox’s “That 70s Show”/”The Simple Life” comedy block. Peacock’s sked shuffle may reflect widespread industry paranoia — perhaps rooted in past experience– that Fox may choose to expand or shift “American Idol” to 8 p.m. Wednesdays as the season heads into the homestretch.

Indeed, at one point, “Contender” was set to air Tuesdays at 8 opposite “Idol.” Burnett and Katzenberg successfully lobbied Peacock execs to move the show to Wednesdays (Daily Variety, Jan. 21).

“Contender” had been scheduled for Wednesdays at 9 starting in November. Then the premiere was pushed back to January (still on Wednesdays) and then to February (but on Tuesdays).

With “Contender” now on Sundays, NBC has decided to give “American Dreams” a brief run Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Skein has a handful of episodes left in its current season.

Also shifting premiere dates (but not timeslots) is “The Office”. Skein will now get a sneak preview on Thursday, March 24 at 9:30 p.m. before its Tuesday 9:30 premiere on March 29.

And “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” which was to have received two Thursday airings in late March, will now get one Thursday airing on March 3 before shifting to its regular slot, Fridays at 10 p.m., March 4. Move means “Medical Investigation,” which has gone from first to worst in the slot, will vacate its slot a month earlier than planned.

Meanwhile, over at the WB, Frog made several sked changes of its own Monday.

Reality skein “The Starlet” is shifting to Sundays at 8 p.m. — opposite “The Contender” –starting March 6. That pushes back “Charmed” to 7 p.m. Sundays until April 10, when the skein reclaims its 9 p.m. slot.

Frog will air repeats of “Starlet” on Thursdays, starting March 10, while “Blue Collar TV” shifts to 8 p.m. Thursdays on March 24.

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